Image credig: Panasonic

The Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 pancake, a lens that you just don’t hear much about. It doesn’t have the rabid following of either the Lumix 20mm or the Leica 25mm. Despite being the widest of the m4:3 primes, it’s overlooked. And unfairly so.
I’m not calling this a review because I’m going to skip over all the usual crap and just get down to the thoughts I have about this lens, based on my in-the-field experiences with it. So let’s agree from the outset that its feature set is both useful and meaningful. Moving on.

First off, this is a lens that retails cheap and can be found used for an outright bargain. I picked mine up off the m4:3 forums for $150. (When’s the last time you got a good lens for that kind of money?) I hadn’t been planning on buying one. It hadn’t even made my radar and to be honest, I bought it with the thought that, for that kind of money I wouldn’t be out much even if it turned out to be a dog.

But it’s not a dog. Not at all. In fact, it’s a lens that spends a lot of time in my bag. I use it regularly as a landscape & nature lens. But it’s also become one of my standard event lenses, for any situation where I want to capture a sense of the environment around my subjects. Like at the cookout two weeks ago, or the grand opening I attended last Friday.
Asked to describe the 14mm, I’d call it a lens of plenty, in the sense that:

  • it’s plenty wide for my needs, even at an equivalent 28mm
  • it’s plenty fast at f/2.5, even if it is a little slower than my 25mm & 75mm
  • it’s plenty sharp, even shot wide-open

[lens on camera]
It’s also tiny. The m4:3 system has challenged my perception of camera gear since I first started using it, but even after I’d gotten used to an all-around smaller package, the 14mm was surprising. It’s THAT small, barely thicker than the manual focus ring on it. Small enough that I sometimes have a little trouble mounting it to the camera, just because there isn’t a lot of hold onto.
But this works in my favor. Out in the field it’s essentially weightless, but more importantly it’s completely unobtrusive. That’s the quality that makes it perfect for event & street shooting. I can get my shot without attracting much notice. Yes, people still see when I raise the camera, but I think they dismiss it when they notice – even sub-consciously – the lack of any proper-looking lens. There’s psychology at work here; people are used to honking f/2.8 zooms and white 70-200s and, in their absence, seem to feel less threatened, or singled-out.
Here’s a small sample of images, covering the situations I’ve mentioned above:

The young, hip, and artistic congregate in The Vintage Theater, Entertainment Venue, & Cafe on Spruce Street in downtown Scranton.  Friday, 14 September 2012, marked The Vintage's grand opening at their new location.

Early autumn sunrise at Fords Pond on the morning of 15 September 2012. This under-rated, somewhat unlikely little lens has become something of a workhorse in my kit. I actively reach for it, I work with it, and I’ve developed a good respect for what it can do. And since nobody else seems to be talking about it, I figured I would.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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